Metro Weekly

Russia may suspend Netflix under ‘gay propaganda’ ban

Netflix faces either a fine or suspension of its service after being accused of violating Russia's anti-LGBTQ law

Netflix – Photo by David Balev via Unsplash

An anti-LGBTQ official in Russia is urging the government to investigate Netflix for allegedly violating the country’s ban on “gay propaganda.”

Olga Baranets, Russia’s Commissioner for the Protection of the Family, has submitted an official complaint about the way Netflix classifies LGBTQ-inclusive content on the streaming service.

Baranets called out Netflix’s “colorful collection of films and TV series…about the lives of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people,” accusing the service of applying a 16+ rating rather than the 18+ rating required by Russia’s so-called “gay propaganda” ban.

The 2013 law banned depictions of “nontraditional relationships” in order to protect minors from being exposed to anything that undermines “traditional family values.”

It has been used by the government to try and remove a gay couple’s children, ban Pride marches, arrest a teenager who shared photos of half-naked men, and delete gay scenes from Elton John biopic Rocketman, among other anti-LGBTQ state-sanctioned actions.

Netflix has 30 days to respond to Baranets’ inquiry, which is being considered by Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs.

However, a source told Vedomosti that an internal review at Netflix found no LGBTQ content labeled 16+ being shown in Russia.

Should investigators rule against Netflix, the company faces a fine of up to 1 million rubles ($13,400), or potentially having its service suspended in Russia for up to 90 days.

Russia’s communications regulator proposed branding LGBTQ organizations as “extremist” groups in order to ban them. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government has repeatedly targeted LGBTQ people, most prominently with 2013’s ban on so-called “gay propaganda.”

[Related: Netflix suspends trans employee who criticized Dave Chappelle’s special ‘The Closer’]

Last year, Russian voters approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. That vote came after a poll found that 1 in 5 Russians believed that LGBTQ people should be “eliminated” from society.

Russia’s ban on “gay propaganda” has been internationally condemned for discriminating against LGBTQ people. The European Court of Human Rights has twice ruled that Russia’s propaganda ban violates the rights of LGBTQ people and LGBTQ organizations.

In 2019, the ECHR ordered the Russian government to pay damages to three LGBTQ groups, after they were denied permission to register as associations because of the anti-gay “propaganda” law.

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